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NFL Week 4 Preview: Chargers vs. Steelers

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday Night Football was supposed to be an AFC Championship preview. However, after Week 3, the San Diego Chargers (2-1, 1-2 ATS) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2, 0-3 ATS) are just focused on staying in the hunt in their respective divisions.

Oddsmakers have tagged the Steelers as 6.5-point home favorites for Sunday’s primetime matchup.

Team records:
San Diego: 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS
Pittsburgh: 1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS

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The defending Super Bowl champs are reeling in the AFC North. A week after losing a shocker to the Chicago Bears, the Steelers came up empty against the Cincinnati Bengals, losing 23-20 on a last-second score.

Pittsburgh’s early-season slide has fingers pointing at head coach Mike Tomlin. After getting a summer’s worth of praise following the team’s Super Bowl title, many are questioning Tomlin’s ability to dig out of this hole after having so much success in his past seasons.

He may be suffering from a Super Bowl hangover in 2009. Tomlin is catching some flack for benching running back Rashard Mendenhall and not having his receivers focused and prepared. Pittsburgh coughed up two fourth-quarter leads versus the Bengals, leading to questions about the complacency of his team.

Tomlin is not solely to blame for the Steelers’ losses. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sloppy against the Bengals. He passed for 276 yards and one touchdown, but was picked off for a touchdown in the third quarter. Roethlisberger has been in Tomlin’s dog house this week. He is scheduled to appear at a WWE wrestling event the Monday after Sunday’s game, leaving many bettors wondering about his focus heading into Week 4.

The Chargers may also find it tough to focus Sunday night. San Diego makes the cross-country trip to an always slick Heinz Field. While they are used to playing in the picture-perfect weather of San Diego, the Bolts could face rain and fall temperatures in the low 50’s.

San Diego is coming off a 23-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at home in Week 3 but showed its weakness to hard-hitting AFC North defenses with a 31-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago. The Chargers’ offense is clicking despite the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson early in the season, but the defense hasn’t found its form of two seasons ago.

San Diego is giving up more than 21 points per game and has been abused by opposing rushing attacks. The Dolphins’ wildcat offense constantly moved the ball but was let down by its passing offense. The groin injury to linebacker Shawne Merriman has taken some of the pop out of their stop unit. The former Pro-Bowler is considered questionable for Sunday night.

Pittsburgh’s once-mighty ground game has yet to find its legs this season. Running back Willie Parker is still missing a step and missed practice this week with a toe injury. Second-stringer Mendenhall was shown the sideline in Week 3 after coming in unprepared. However, with Parker considered questionable, Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore could get the carries in Week 4.

San Diego’s receiving corps is averaging more than 179 yards per game through the first three weeks of the season. Quarterback Philip Rivers is still having trouble connecting with his targets, posting a completion percentage of just 58.8 with the majority of balls going to receiver Vincent Jackson. After finishing the 2008 season with a bang, the burly Jackson is beginning to play to his potential and has caught 16 balls for 317 yards and two scores.

Darren Sproles has filled in for the injured Tomlinson; however, he hasn’t been able to break off the big gains. Third-stringer Michael Bennett has had his fair share of carries in the last two weeks. Tomlinson was back at practice this week and is considered probable for Week 4.

Sunday night’s total is set at 43 points. Three of the last four meetings between these teams have played under the total. Pittsburgh is 3-1 in that span but has covered in just two of those contests.

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Comments

Comments

  1. The Super Bowl Champions will be on the hot seat in this game as they try and avoid a 3rd straight loss in front on the home town crowd.

    Good teams win big games and I fully expect the Steelers to rise to the challenge.

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